The Hellroys tear it up at the Honky Tonk Happy Hour
It's 6:45 on a Friday evening, and the Honky Tonk Happy Hour is rolling at the Shrunken Head. Singer-Songwriter Chad Lee Williams has just finished up his set and has headed to the bar where a mixed crowd of band invitees and regulars are milling around. Most have finished the drinks they hoarded during the Head's "Happiest Hour" from 5-6 (75 cent drafts and shots!), and must now content themselves with a mere happy hour discount. Onstage the Hellroys have just launched into their unhinged brand of rockabilly and are starting to pick up steam. Host Matt Monta tracks down each new guest as they walk in the door and gives them a raffle ticket for the nightly prizes of band memorabilia and a home baked pie. Perhaps because it’s the beginning of a Friday night, the mood is laid back – even jovial. The Hellroys finish their first song, tell a couple of jokes, and smash back into their set. The Happy Hour was started in 2010 when singer/guitarist Jamie Lyn moved to Columbus from Brooklyn, NY. Originally from Knox County, Ohio, Jamie Lyn had played with several country music acts in New York and was surprised that Columbus had no showcase for neo-traditional artists to contend with the contemporary country on the radio. A dedicated Loretta Lynnophile, Jamie wanted to push the envelope: "I wanted country music that sought to reach and engage a broader audience by raising the bar and remaining in dialogue with tradition while continuing to innovate the genre." She began hosting the event at what was then the Victorian Midnight Cafe on the first and third Friday of every month. She frequently opened the show herself, and baked a pie for the raffle. Over time, the event added a healthy dose of rockabilly to complement the country acts. When the Victorian Cafe became the Shrunken Head, the event stayed on, and owner Andreas Kleinert names it as one of his favorite shows (a German expatriate, Kleinert does jokingly insist that his tastes are more diverse than what he calls the "German stereotype" of rockabilly, metal and country). In mid-2011, the demands of travel from her home in Centerburg became too much for Jamie Lyn, and she handed off host duties to Matt Monta. Under Monta’s stewardship, the event has continued to thrive, with many acts playing the happy hour repeatedly. Like Jamie Lyn, Monta has some showman in him, whipping the twice-nightly raffle into an event – drumroll please! The list of bands who have played the happy hour is lengthy. Both Monta and Jamie Lyn have a difficult time picking favorite acts. Off the top of his head, Monta lists the Boondogglers, Erica Hughes and the Well Mannered and the Olde Souls as artists he has particularly enjoyed. From a band’s perspective, the Hellroys are quick to point out how comfortable and musician friendly the event is. The true beauty of the event to a local musician is the existence of regulars, a sacred cache of strangers who will give your music a listen. For the audience, if you're interested in downing a beer with a favorite local act, the relaxed vibe of the happy hour is the place to do it. Kim Snively and her husband Jeff have been attending the event twice monthly since nearly the beginning. Kim gives a list of great local bands the Happy Hour has introduced her to, including the Devil Doves. On this night, Kim will win the raffle and walk off with the pie and a custom Hellroy's hat. After the Friday. Feb. 7 show, Monta is turning over his host duties to the team of Brent Miller and Ian Hummel. According to Monta, the time has come to pass the torch: "I've had a great run over almost three years. I've seen some great shows, made a lot of friends and had a hell of a lot of fun. I think it's time for some new blood." Monta, who also plays with Righteous Buck and the Skull Scorchers and the Smoking Guns, has a lot on his plate musically these days; he plans to record a new album in the spring with his band the Haymakers and hit the road in support. Miller, usually found playing with The Boondogglers, has already guest hosted a few times and intends to carry on the tradition. The HTHH still plays on the first and third Friday of every month at 6:00 PM at the Shrunken Head, 251 W. 5th Ave. Monta's last show as host will be Friday, February 7, and the show will feature both a set from him plus one from Outlaw Deluxe (demand a Jerry Reed cover, they’ll play it). If you go, make a point to get in before six to take advantage of "happiest hour" pricing. Similar to what you would see in Nashville or Memphis, the HTHH does not charge a cover, although tipping the band is encouraged.

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